N+1 reviews three novels that all share Berlin as a hometown.
Behind office buildings on side streets in Mitte, the grassy path of the divided city’s death strip—the stretch of empty land studded with menacing watch towers between the wall’s parallel ribbons of concrete—still slices through the cityscape, not so much a scar as a parenthesis. Cities tend to have their apex of glam, at least where literature is concerned—the Bohemian dereliction of 19th century Paris, Bloomsbury London, New York with its Jazz-Age sheen. History’s aggressive march through Berlin has meant that its moments of self-fashioning are always cut short; somehow, it manages to teeter always on the cusp of transformation, without ever quite arriving. The advantage of this suspended state is that the city never gets fixed in time, leaving its image available for reimagining.